A madness is about to grip Buffalo, but public health officials need not sound any alarms.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, one of the nation’s biggest sporting events, leaps into the city this week, expected to bring dozens of highlight-reel moments, thousands of out-of-town visitors, a $5 million jolt to the local economy and one giant ego boost to the community’s fragile sports psyche.
Local sports fans may fret about whether Buffalo is big-league enough to hold onto a National Football League franchise. But the city has proved successful hosting NCAA events for years, becoming a slam dunk for “March Madness,” the win-or-go-home college basketball tournament that captivates millions of Americans every year.
The six games scheduled for Thursday and Saturday in First Niagara Center mark the fifth time since 2000 the governing body for intercollegiate athletics has chosen Buffalo as a tournament host.
Those past experiences made the NCAA’s decision to return easier than an uncontested layup.
“The hospitality that the whole community provides is the No. 1 reason why it keeps coming back,” said Ken Taylor, associate commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which organizes the tournament in Buffalo, along with Canisius College and Niagara University.
Buzz about the games coming to Buffalo already is building.
“It’s all I hear anyone talking about,” said Dave Whalen of Amherst, who has been to about a dozen NCAA tournaments and will be in First Niagara Center on Thursday and Saturday. “There’s not a guy I know who’s interested in sports who isn’t going or doesn’t want to go.”
Those guys still have plenty of chances for tickets.
Heading to the tournament?
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